The title for Rhoda Janzen’s latest memoir, Mennonite Meets Mr. Right, could be recast as Egg-Head Mennonite Intellectual Meets Pentecostal Hunk Mitch. I succumbed easily to her comic style, which engaged me while reading her first memoir, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, recounting a return to her religious roots after several life-changing experiences sent her reeling and in need of healing.
An English and creative writing professor at Hope College, Janzen takes her readers on a romp into new territory. With chapter headings like Lady Problems, The Ghost in the Tub, and Whippersnapper, the author reveals a serious health diagnosis, a haunted bathroom, and revelations from stepson Leroy.
If Janzen’s storytelling rivals that of Nora Ephron, her take on faith recalls Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies. In the most unlikely congregation with “hand-clappin ’hallelujahs,” readers observe her spiritual transformation from skeptic to faith-filled: “But I had left Texas. I was in a different state now, a weird one, where I’d actually rather have cancer than a grudge.” About suffering, she poses the question, “ . . . if we didn’t suffer, would we still be human?” In so doing, she invites readers to examine their own beliefs.
A New York Times best-selling memoirist, Janzen has also published a collection of poetry, Babel’s Stair. I found the cadence of her lines often magnetizing like her use of metaphor, “Some sisters only pretend to like each other. When they speak of each other, their lips thin like pressed leaves and their tone takes on a crunchy sugar coating. ‘My sister? Well, her choices aren’t my choices, but she’s still my sister, Of course I love her.’”
Once Janzen seemed to go off on a tangent when she discussed the GiftQuest report at her church and I lost interest. But soon she looped around to stories of weddings and marriage in her family and I was again hooked.
If you fancy an author who can use the words anagnoritic, jejune, and salvific adroitly in her text and then go spinning off a tale about silicone panty packs, Rhoda Janzen is the author for you.
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In case you missed it, you can read my version of Mennonite Meets Mr. Right on this blog post “How We Met: CareBearCliff” published in 2013.
Janzen’s book was a gift from a gracious blog reader, Marcia Felts, who included this note when she mailed the book to me:
Have you read any of Janzen’s books? Does your response match mine?
Any other memoirs to recommend?